An anorexic man has revealed how a near-death experience forced him to fight back against his fear of eating and addiction to exercise.
When he was 14 years old, Matthew Booth's weight fell to just 4st, 5lbs.
And at rock bottom, he 'died' for 20 minutes – an experience that helped shock him into recovery.
At one point, Matthew, from Bury, Lancs., stopped eating and drinking completely, and when he was 18 was rushed to hospital, where his heart stopped and doctors battled for 20 minutes to bring him back to life.
He said his problems began when he was relentlessly beaten by a gang of school bullies every day for over a year because he was 'different'.
He was so desperate to stop the beatings that he started compulsively exercising and lifting weights to bulk up, throwing his lunch away in an attempt to change his appearance and 'fit in' at school.
But eventually, unable to stop the bullies, he dropped out of school.
He said: "I started lifting weights to try and get bigger to defend myself against the bullies, but I also began skipping meals, thinking this would help me bulk up.
"But the weight started falling off me, and it felt good to have something in my life I could actually control. Fed up of with the abuse I dropped out of school."
Alone at home, while his mother Brenda, 61, worked full time as a civil servant, Matthew skipped breakfast and lunch, exercising up to eight hours a day.
Eventually, after he'd stopped eating altogether and had shrunk to 7st, his worried mother Brenda took her son to the doctor.
He was diagnosed with anorexia and hospitalised two months later weighing just 5st, 8lbs.
During his stay, he managed to put on some weight, but as soon as he went home he went back to his old habits, lying to his mum about what he'd eaten and how much he'd exercised – the latter for sometimes up to eight hours a day.
He had begun purging his food and abusing laxatives, taking up to 40 a day.
He spent the whole of Christmas Day 2010 on his exercise bike, unable to relax at the thought of gaining just one pound. His anorexia sparked an all-consuming OCD, leading him to spend up to 16-hours a day walking in circles around his living room, unable to sit down.
At his worst, Matthew stopped drinking for three weeks, refusing to brush his teeth or even wash his face in fear that just a drop of water would see him gain weight. His lips were constantly bleeding from the dehydration.
He said: "By January 2011 nothing was allowed to pass through my mouth. I would wake up at 4am every morning and pace my bedroom in a zombie state until 10 o'clock at night.
"By the end I couldn't swallow, my lips were cracked and were constantly bleeding. My face was practically rotting."
In February 2011, when he was 18, Matthew was sectioned by his doctor and rushed to Fairfield Hospital in Bury.
Two days later he suffered heart failure and died for 20 minutes. Doctors were able to revive him, but told him he would die again if he didn't start eating.
Matthew said: "I remember waking up and the doctor looking at me saying 'you just died,' I couldn't believe it. I burst into tears. They said if they hadn't had taken me in when they did I'd be dead. It was the wake up call I needed to start recovering.
"When my mum turned up and told me they had rang her after 10 minutes of trying to revive me telling her I might not live, I felt so guilty for putting her through it all.
"I asked her to pass me a mirror so I could look at my face. When I saw my reflection I didn't recognise the person staring back at me.
"I looked like an 80-year-old man, not an 18-year-old boy. I was being tube fed and had to go to the toilet through a tube. It was humiliating."
Matthew's body was so damaged that doctors had to check his blood every two hours to monitor his glucose levels. The starvation had caused liver, kidney and heart failure.
Matthew fell unconscious two days later after suffering from re-feeding syndrome. He spent four weeks in hospital being fed through tubes and was later referred to Cheadle Adult Eating Disorder clinic for further treatment and physiotherapy to help him walk again.
Matthew, who now lives in Lowestoft, Suffolk with girlfriend, Tammy Earrye, 18 said: "Gradually my body started to recover and I was determined never to go back to hospital again.
"I became more positive and began to eat, increasing my calorie intake every day.
"A year after I was discharged I met Tammy online. At first I was scared to tell her what had happened to me, but once I opened up to her she was so understanding and caring. I could tell her anything.
"She was my first girlfriend and she made me feel like I wasn't a freak and that she liked me for who I was.
"Whenever I feel insecure about my body she tells me she loves me the way I am and that I should be confident about the way I look. I still get horrible thoughts, but she's there to support me on my down days."
Matthew is now training to become a fitness trainer.
"My near death experience made me realise how much I really wanted to live. It changed my outlook on life and I was determined to recover.
"Knowing I might not have lived still upsets me today. I feel guilty for putting my mum through the worry of losing a child.
"Coming back from the dead made me want to live. I was given a second chance at life and wasn't going to waste it."
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